I would love to learn some new tricks on photographing aquatic insects.
Tell us more about what you have access to (tidal estuary? mountain stream? city?) and you will get more pertinent answers.
We would be pleased to hear about all options! Especially mountain streams as they sound like a hard place to catch anything! I know people use Petri dishes with some background layer to photograph insect larvae, sounds like a good tip, but how exactly do they catch them? Where it’s possible to buy a scoop net fitting for water or at lest is there an official name for it to search up?
I don’t know the answer to that question, but we went on a field trip to look for insects in fast mountain streams. The Prof wore waders and brought another big guy. One kicked over stones and the other was downstream maybe 8-10 feet holding a screen between two posts to catch anything that came loose.
Here´s where many would go to buy a kit for this in UK :
I have access to a creek behind my house.
Find a plastic bowl, tray, or tub meant for food – white or clear both work pretty well for photographic lighting, and flat-bottomed is better for maintaining a consistent focal distance with a moving-around organism.
You can use it to scoop stuff out of running water in streams.
You can use it to scoop out rocks along the bottom of streams and pick up everything stuck the rock along with it–if you have enough water many of them will swim around
You can use it to scoop up leaves or bottom sediments from any kind of freshwater or saltwater, and once the sediments settle to the bottom of the container all sorts of organisms become visible. Most will tend to stick to the bottom, so you can pour off some of the water along the top to create a “concentrate” of aquatic arthropods.
This has always worked for me much better than small scoop nets because you get a greater diversity and can more easily pick out different organisms. The giant nets, as described by others above, catch much more if you’re up for that. It might not be practical for everyone.
I bought an OK telescopic pond net on Amazon for not a lot of money: about US $ 35.00. Telescopic means that you can stand up on the side of a pond and yet still reach the bottom using the net. Although sometimes the bottom is mud, and its better to avoid it, instead concentrating on pushing the net through waterweeds or reeds.
I also bought a couple of old-style white enamel dishes for sorting what comes up in the net.
A kitchen sieve is a cheap way to start. It can be used in standing water, or in streams. Sweep it through a water body and look to see if anything is inside. Immersing it some water allows smaller organisms to be picked out. Scoop up some mud and swish the sieve around to wash the mud away, then look for anything left behind. In a stream, pick up rocks and look at the bottom of the rock. A few species of filter feeders will live on rock tops - blackfly larvae come to mind. While picking the rock up, stick the sieve just downstream in case anything washes from underneath. Stick your food into the stream substrate and wiggle it around with the sieve just downstream, then look inside the sieve.
I’ve only preserved aquatic insects in alcohol (or pinned adults), so I can’t offer photography tips. A tip to remember - many common aquatic bugs can inflict a nasty bite!
EDIT foot, not food.
I would recommend taking a look at BioQuip’s website on purchasing aquatic insect collecting equipment: https://www.bioquip.com/Search/WebCatalog.asp?category=15000&prodtype=1
There are many, many methods for collecting many different species.
Here is some very cheap equipment that I can suggest for a first look at macroinvertebrates (it’s fun for kids too):
- plastic bottle that is cut to serve as a bucket
- spoon and tweezers to transfer and sort
- fishing net for kids or kitchen sieve (mesh size should be 5mm at most)
- white ice cube tray, perfect to collect and photograph specimens
Some video tutorials:
And a great app that helps with identification using silhouettes or keys:
Or better yet, at those prices: look at their website to figure out how to make such equipment yourself!
Would a finely slotted spoon work better than a plain spoon? Those are all great suggestions. There is really no need for expensive equipment!
I think a normal spoon is convenient because it is transferring water along with your creature from the bucket to the ice cube tray. This way each creature has its own little pool in the tray and can wait safely for your photo-shooting/ID (don’t let the water cook under the sun). When you are done, you can release back everyone to their respective habitat with the spoon.
For those who put up a fight but would be hurt by tweezers my additional item is a plastic dropper (cheap in makeup shops): a tiny bit of air suction and water surface tension is enough to stick the beast to the end of the dropper.
Very good ideas. Thank you!
Here in Vermont (USA), I use both a D-net (https://www.bioquip.com/Search/WebCatalog.asp?category=15000&prodtype=1) and a “rock-rubbing” technique: get a white dish pan, fill with a little water from your stream, and set it near you as you wade the riffles (shallow, rocky areas). Grab a rock, quickly pick it up and place it in/over the dish pan, and gently but firmly rub off any organisms. I find the D-net is most helpful when trying to collect insect larvae that to don’t really cling to rocks (dragonfly, damselfly, dobsonfly, many of the larger stoneflies). Set the bottom of the frame against the bed of the stream, and shuffle up the rocks a few inches upstream with my feet or rub/disturb the rocks with gloved hands.
One last tip - If planning to muck about in cold water, get neoprene gloves (wet suit). They really do keep your hands warmer when in cold water.
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